A retail garden center may be a business, but for its owners, staff and customers, it’s something of a second home, and nothing completes the feeling of being at home than a friendly animal to greet you. Last year, we collected photos and stories of several pets and mascots that make their homes in garden centers around the country. In this issue, we’re bringing you another collection of garden center animals that entertain shoppers, improve staff morale and help to create a welcoming atmosphere in their stores. If you have a store pet or mascot at your garden center, you can submit photos and information to associate editor Conner Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Batsen and Mr. Potato
The Garden Barn, Bozeman, Mont.
Two felines call The Garden Barn home; a striped female named Batsen and a black male cat named Mr. Potato. Owner Josh Pecukonis says a friend gave Batsen to the store about two years ago, when she was a kitten. Mr. Potato came to the store in spring 2017.
A coop full of chickens rounds out the animal offerings at The Garden Barn. “We sell eggs and stuff, but everybody loves them,” Pecukonis says.
“The cats are really unusually friendly — they’re not like regular cats for some reason,” he adds. “People like to carry them around with them, and the cats are constantly here so they have a very good presence.”
Smokey the cat
Hoover Gardens and Gift Center, Westerville, Ohio
As is the case with many cats that inhabit retail garden centers, Smokey arrived unannounced at Hoover Gardens and Gift Center in Westerville, Ohio, and adopted the store as his new home about five years ago. Since then, Smokey has become a fixture of Hoover Gardens and Gift Center’s social media accounts and regularly meows at customers until they pet him. He’s even known to occasionally hitch a ride on customers’ shopping carts, according to store associate Tasha Ebert.
“Sometimes we have people that come in just to visit him,” Ebert says. “He’s definitely spoiled, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Edward’s Garden Center, Forty Fort, Pa.
There are 28 animals that reside at Edward’s Garden Center in Forty Fort, Pa., including two iguanas (Vegas and Mardi Gras), three goats (Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup) and four tortoises, the largest of which is named Kunda. They are housed in 10 stations around the garden center, and they are more than just mascots; the garden center offers scavenger-hunt style tours of the rabbits, ducks, ferrets and more each season, charging a fee to help with the costs of maintaining the eclectic group. Last year, the store hosted 42 school groups and handed out about 4,000 goodie bags, which all children receive at the end of the tours. Customers help name the pets via Facebook contests, with the winner receiving a $100 gift card to the garden center. — Michelle Simakis